Hamilton is high on the list for Aucklanders wanting to escape skyrocketing house prices and gridlocked traffic, say real estate agents who are helping more Aucklanders move south.
Lodge Real Estate director Jeremy O'Rourke says Hamilton is undergoing a rebirth from cow town to corporate centre, with many home buyers in the city over the past month being professionals with young families who are relocating from Auckland for a better lifestyle.
"We have seen a lot of families and people from Auckland moving into the city over the past month.
"Many are former Hamiltonians who have decided to return, but they are not returning to the city they grew up in; Hamilton has come of age," said Jeremy.
Lodge's median house price in Hamilton for June was $820,000, while the median house price in Auckland exceeded $1,100,000.
Tom Corkill has just moved to Hamilton from Auckland with his wife Chloe and their 6-month-old daughter Madeline.
The couple had been living in Auckland for the past four and a half years and they were based in London prior to that. Tom said they decided to make the move to Hamilton for a better lifestyle after he took a new role at Hamilton law firm Norris Ward McKinnon.
"It's a city that's heading in the right direction. There's fantastic job opportunities and it made sense for us on a lot of levels," said Tom.
Moving to Hamilton would allow them to have more space in their home, when compared with Auckland properties, and the city also offered a better work-life balance. The couple have a keen love of the outdoors and Tom said they expected to have plenty to fill their weekends.
The biggest challenge was finding the right property for sale.
The city is facing a large shortfall in housing with only around 296 houses listed in June.
"Winter is always a time when stocks are down, but they are down further than usual. There is just no letting up in the market," Jeremy said.
Meanwhile,the QV House Price Index shows the average value increased 6.6 per cent nationally over the past three-month period to the end of June, down from the 8.8 per cent quarterly growth seen in May, with the national average value now sitting at $943,184.
QV general manager David Nagel said: "It's too early to say the market has turned, but this will be encouraging news for government officials and regulators, concerned about the financial risks of an overheated property market."
He says the good news for first-home buyers and policy makers is that Hamilton's rate of monthly house price growth has dropped for the second month in a row, easing from 3.2 per cent in April to 2.3 per cent in May, and then 1.2 per cent in June.
Indeed, the rate of house price growth appears to be easing across much of the Waikato region. The most notable exception was Waikato District, which has experienced rapid house price growth of 12.5 per cent this quarter.
Local QV property consultant Jarrod Hedley said: "New residential developments in nearby rural service towns such as Ngaruawahia, Te Awamutu, Cambridge, Matamata and Morrinsville, continue to drive demand and value level in these areas with developers also looking at larger quarter acre sections with the ability to also subdivide in these towns."
Lodge says large corporate organisations were also showing confidence in Hamilton with the likes of Rabobank, ACC and Te Pukenga, New Zealand's largest tertiary education provider, now basing their head offices in the city, providing job opportunities and with it more demand for housing.
"With stocks so low, there has also been a major increase in demand for people buying houses off-plans. This is particularly true of infill duplexes. Many complexes being built are 100 per cent sold before completion," said Jeremy.
There was also a lot of development happening based on global trends, he said, which was seeing houses built on much smaller, easier to maintain sections with large areas of connecting greenspace and walking and cycling paths.
Developments like Greenhill Park in Fairfield were a good example, the development including 16ha of land set aside as open public space.